It is the first day of July. Baking hot, as it has been for over a week now and still no end in sight – there is talk of a hose-pipe ban and we are torn between basking in the blissful warmth and worrying about our garden; it is so dry and the lack of rain recently is taking its toll, the turf paths beginning to yellow and the flowers in our long raised beds flowering faster than we can cut them.
Yesterday Jess and I had a small wedding to deliver in the Surrey Hills. We met for breakfast and sat outside the café opposite her flat on the long tree-lined avenue drinking coffee and discussing the week ahead. Then we wound our way out of London with crates full of roses and larkspur and sweet peas, stopping on the way for more coffee and strawberries. It felt like the old days, just us two on the road, though in reality the 'old days' were of course barely two years ago, which feels like a minute and a lifetime at the same time. The wedding set-up was idyllic, a pretty white marquee set on the lawn of the groom’s family home, beside a small lake. Four long tables with white linen and sparkling glasses, the sides open to the slight breeze, and along the lake-bank, little braziers and flares and neat piles of firewood for the evening party. Weddings at home have a particularly special atmosphere, there is an extra sense of intimacy and that familial camaraderie, mothers in curlers and people scurrying here and there with balloons and foliage and bottles of champagne to stock the fridges. Late morning the groomsmen gathered at the waters edge, stripped off and dove in to the cool waters, whooping and splashing. Jess sat cross-legged to one side in the shade to make up the buttonholes with flowers grasses and sprigs of herbs, tied with silk ribbon (one eye I suspect on the pleasing view) and I placed the vases along the tables, topping them to the brim with water and tweaking with fresh replacements. We dropped the box of buttonholes up to the house and drove through the village to the hotel where the bride was getting ready with her bridesmaids to deliver the bouquets. Hers was a soft ruffly concoction of Margaret Merrill roses and greens with sweet peas, larkspur, gypsophila and agrostemma cut from the garden the morning before at first light.
Our mornings cutting are the highlight of our weeks at the moment. It takes around four hours twice a week to move from bed to bed, deadheading and cutting the freshest blooms, directly into water, then moving to the polytunnel and into Nina's rose garden (so named in memory of our supplier who last year emigrated to Australia and sold us many of her heavenly roses when she left), lastly walking around the large adjoining field scanning the hedgerows for interesting foliage, grasses, wild roses and poppy seed heads. It’s a time of pleasant quietness and calm; we don’t talk much except to excitedly beckon the other over to admire a new arrival or a butterfly, or a lizard sleeping in the shade of the tunnel walls. There is something almost mesmeric in the act of gathering flowers, with the wind blowing the door of the tunnel ajar and the shadowy outline of the billowing hedgerow beyond. In May there were bearded iris, ranunculus, anemones and geums. In June we had countless yellow, ochre and gold calendula tipped with red, poppies galore, agrostemma, gypsophila, foxgloves and roses. Now the sweet peas, in full, relentless bloom, are almost reaching the domed ceiling and we’re starting to see the first of the phlox and tobacco flowers, and amaranthus in a beautiful golden brown the colour of muscavado sugar.
May and June are two of our busiest months of the year side by side, so busy that they almost seemed to merge into one long blur of activity, no sooner one project ending than the next beginning and so on. Weddings, deliveries, group workshops, private classes and our residential summer retreat in Sussex. But this is the way of things working seasonally, that quiet, dark start to the year slowly lightening and gaining momentum to the crescendo of the summer and autumn and then waning again. There hasn’t been a lot of time for reflection, but that will surely come soon enough – I'm trying to stay as present as possible this summer, though the days and weeks are racing by like enticing meadows seen from the window of a speeding train. Our studio is coming into its own now, the way we had imagined it would – a hub of flowers and people and conversation, food and music. Flowers come in and go out, buckets fill and are emptied, the floor strewn with detritus and swept clear again, conversation flashing into laughter and dying down again into companionable silence.
It is a hot, sultry evening and I’m writing with the shutters closed, as they’ve been all day to keep the heat out. The flat is shadowy and Mavis is fast asleep on her favourite chair which affords her a view of our small courtyard garden and leaping squirrels in the canopy of trees beyond, exhausted by a long walk and 'swimming lessons' from the little shingle beach opposite the tail-end of Eel Pie Island. I’ve been stockpiling new recipe books, and am deep into the first 'Kitchen Diaries' of Nigel Slater which is excellent reading before bed - each night I read three or four pages and have delicious dreams of John Pawson kitchens and rosewater panna cotta and garden dinners for two. I had every good intention of getting up early and heading to the farmers' market in Earl’s Court this morning to stock up on some ingredients to try a few recipes I’ve earmarked but waking to 27 degree heat I decided to stay closer to home so it’s a simple supper tonight of cold salmon and a chilled new potato salad with lots of dill. There’s a bowlful of apples I’ve saved for a tarte tatin, though, and in the hallway freshly filled buckets awaiting a rose delivery for the week ahead. The weather forecast shows that tomorrow will be another scorcher so we’re off at dawn to the garden to cut for Tuesday’s workshop - early to bed tonight! Until next time, friends, we hope you enjoy the photos. More soon! A&J x